I’m training for the Boston Marathon as part of a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society. This will be my first marathon, and I’m very nervous; I’m afraid I’ll run out of energy and “hit the wall.” I know I should “carbo-load” before long training runs. Does this simply mean stuffing myself with pasta?
Stuffing yourself with pasta the night before your long runs is one way to carbo-load, but there’s another approach to consider as well. Here’s what I recommend for your training runs:
1. Cut back on your running one or two days prior to the long training run. Your muscles can store maximal amounts of glycogen only if they are given non-exercise time to do so.
2. Eat the same tried-and-true carbs you (should) have been eating as a part of your daily training diet. As you know, you can only train at your best if you fuel your muscles daily with a carbohydrate-based diet: cereal for breakfast, sandwiches made with hearty bread for lunch, pasta for dinner.
3. The night before the long run eat well, but do not eat so much you upset your digestive system and wake up feeling like a beached whale.
4. Eat adequately on morning of the long training run. This is your time to practice fueling as you might do before the marathon itself. Figure out if you prefer bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal, energy bars, cereal … this your time to experiment so you learn which foods—and how much of them—settle well and enhance your run.
5. During the long training run, maintain a steady fuel intake by drinking sports drinks, and carrying with you hard candy, twizzlers, sports gels, energy bars, dried pineapple and other forms of easy-to-digest carbohydrates. You should target about 200 to 300 calories per hour, after the first hour of running. Fueling during the event helps prevent you from “hitting the wall” and also replaces the need to stuff yourself the night before.
By practicing your fueling during your long training runs, you’ll be able to learn how to fuel on Marathon day and will have no need to worry about hitting the wall.
All too often, my clients report “I don’t keep cookies in my house. If cookies are there, I end up eating the whole package. It’s easier to not have them around...”
While that may seem a wise solution to the eating-too-many-cookies problem, depriving yourself of cookies tends to backfire. That is, when the opportunity arises for you to eat cookies, you likely end up eating the whole plate because this is your “last chance” to ever eat a cookie. “Last chance eating” leads to food binges, weight gain and feelings of being powerless over food.
An alternative to staying away from cookies is to eat cookies every day, at every meal. This will take the power away from them. Think about it. Do apples have power over you? Doubtful. That’s because you can eat an apple whenever you want. So why do cookies have power over you? Because you deny yourself the privilege of enjoying cookies from time to time. After three days of cookies-at-every-meal, they will likely lose their power.
If you liked cookies as a kid and like them now, you will undoubtedly like them in the future. How about trying to make peace with cookies?
Many of my clients like to "save calories" by taking a calcium pill instead of drinking milk. While they may think that is a reasonable alternative, I disagree. Yes, a calcium pill does offer a lower calorie alternative to consuming the recommended three (8-ounce) glasses of (soy) milk or yogurt each day, but research indicates milk drinkers tend to be leaner than milk avoiders. That suggests milk is not fattening but rather slimming!
I encourage my clients to embrace milk as a “liquid food” that is satiating and curbs one appetite. That is, milk can be more filling than the same number of calories from soda or juice. Drinking a glass of milk with a meal can fill you up, as opposed to drinking water and then be left hankering for dessert (with far more calories than a glass of milk).
Most of my active female clients reduce weight on 1,800 calories; men on 2,100+ calories. That breaks down to 500 to 600 calories per meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and 300 calories for a snack. Enjoying low-fat (soy) milk on cereal, a mid-morning latte and a yogurt for a snack seems a powerful way to spend 300 of those calories and approach the recommended intake of 1,000 milligrams of calcium per for adults 19-50 years; 1,200 mg for adults older than 50 years, and 1,300 mg for kids 9-18 years.
If you are a parent, be a role model and drink (soy) milk at dinner to encourage a calcium-rich intake for your kids. Building strong bones during the ages of 10 to 18 is a wise investment for the future. Milk offers far more than just calcium; it’s a rich source of vitamin D, protein, riboflavin and a host of life-sustaining nutrients. Think twice before trading this wholesome food for an engineered pill.
Ever wonder about what's best to eat before, during or after exercise?
Want information on how to resove disordered eating patterns and a negative relationship with food?
Are you trying to bulk up and want to figure out the best way to gain muscsle?
Here’s your chance to learn from two internationally known experts at this intensive workshop on Nutrition & Exercise.
Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS, RD is renowned for her work with counseling athletes/exercisers.
Exercise physiologist William Evans PhD for his research with protein, weight, and aging.
They will be offering a 1.5 day program that is designed to help coaches, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, sports nutritionists, sports medicine professionals as well as athletes themselves find answers to their questions about--
-eating for health, enhanced performance and longevity
Question: I recently bought a really good bathroom scale and I weigh myself every morning. On days when I think I should have lost weight, the scale says I gained two pounds. This puts me in a really bad mood. What’s going on…?
The scale weighs not just changes in fat loss (or fat gain), but also changes in body water and intestinal contents. Hence, your weight can fluctuate one or two pounds daily depending on if you are constipated, have diarrhea, or are bloated pre-menstrually. Do not expect your body to consistently weigh, let’s say, 120 pounds. Allow your weight to vary within a range between 118 and 122 pounds.
Water-weight quickly comes and quickly goes. It is not permanent. It is not body fat. You should not let this normal fluctuation depress your mood for the day.
Many factors affect water-weight. These include:
• hormonal shifts that occur not only premenstrually, but also if you are stressed or over-tired.
• salty foods, such a Chinese dinner or a bag of popcorn.
• hot weather or a hot environment, such as a hot meeting room.
• overeating carbohydrates. When you “carbo-load”, you store about three ounces of water along with every ounce of carbohydrate.
Rather than weigh yourself every morning, I suggest you weigh yourself only once a week--or better yet, not at all! The scale rarely tells you anything you do not already know. If you feel thinner, if your clothes are looser, and if people are even commenting that you look leaner, then you have lost body fat--despite the number on the scale.
Rather than starting each day by weighing yourself, how about starting it by smiling at yourself in the mirror and appreciating your body for all the wonderful things it does to help you live a fulfilling life? That sounds more fruitful to me!
“I’ve struggled with my weight all my life. I remember going to Weight Watchers with my mom when I was 10 year old. That was humiliating! Ever since then, I’ve been on and off diets. I feel like such a failure,” lamented my client, a 38-year-old medical professional. Like most people who struggle with weight, he grew up with the message that he wasn’t “good enough” and that being over-fat was not acceptable.
To counter all of his negative self-talk, I encouraged Jim (not his real name) to remember that just as dogs come in differing sizes and shapes, so do people. And no one size or shape is “perfect” or able to transform him into a “better” person. I encouraged him to live on a fantasy island, where he could be “good enough” at his current weight.
I also shared these words of wisdom: “To compare is to despair.” I invited Jim to stop comparing himself to others and to simply appreciate all the wonderful things his body does for him. Easier said than done, but certainly a worthy goal.
If you, too, have struggled with being overweight for most of your life, you might also feel imperfect and inadequate. The solution is not to change your body from the outside in (by losing excess body fat) but to change yourself from the inside out. You can be a good person at any size. For help with improving your relationship with your body, you might want to read the chapter on body fat in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
“I just have to get rid of this weight quickly. I can’t stand this uncomfortable stuff around my middle” she complained with disgust while grabbing the flesh at her waist. “I know everyone says to lose weight slowly, but that just won’t work for me... “
My client was clearly uncomfortable with her body and eager to transform her physique. Unfortunately, she failed to recognize that quick weight loss offers only short-term benefits. Quick weight loss inevitably results in long-term fat gain because of the physiology of starvation. That is, when you drastically reduce your food intake, your body’s physiology wants to binge eat to quickly regain all the weight you lost (and likely even more pounds).
As a human, your body requires fuel. The body perceives a strict diet as a famine. When the opportunity to stop the famine presents itself, the drive to eat becomes overwhelming. This overeating has little to do with “will power” and lots of do with the physiological response to extreme hunger. It’s sort of like how you have to breathe rapidly after having spent too long holding your breath. Your body gasps for air, just as it gasps for food after a “famine.”
Depending on your level of discipline, weight regain might not happen for a week, a few months, or a year, but it will inevitably happen. That’s because crash–dieters learn only how to white-knuckle weight loss, but do not learn how to eat appropriately. Inappropriate eating creates your weight problems.
If having excess body fat is an issue, your goal for 2010 needs to be to learn how to manage the overabundant food supply, manage stress and emotions without overeating; manage to find time to exercise, and manage to get enough sleep. Weight reduction has more to do with management of food, stress, sleep, exercise and emotions than it has to do with food…
Your best bet for learning how to chip away at slow but steady weight loss is to meet with a registered dietitian (RD) who can help you develop the skills you need to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life. To find a local sports dietitian, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org. Alternatively, my Sports Nutrition Guidebook has a strong section on how to lose weight and have energy to exercise.
A sports diet need not be a “perfect diet” to be “good diet” I tell my clients to aim for a food plan that includes 85-90% quality foods and 10-15% “treats.”
Here’s a recipe that fits into the “treat” category and adds a nice ending for a special holiday meal.
Enjoy the season,
This brownie pudding is a low-fat yet tasty treat for those who want a chocolate-fix. It forms its own sauce during baking. If you need to rationalize eating chocolate, remember it does contain some health-protective phytochemicals...
If good health is your wish, get caught on fish! Yes, you know you should eat more fish to reduce your risk of heart disease—but what if you just don’t like the taste of salmon or strong-tasting fish? What can you do?
Try Barramundi! Barramundi, which means “fish with big scales” in an Australian aboriginal dialect, are a sweet, mild-tasting white fish (similar to cod). Yet, they have the omega-3 content of wild Coho salmon without the “fishy” taste. Unlike other omega-3-rich fish that eat smaller fish, Barramundi have the rare ability to make omega-3's from plants. This means Barramundi are not mercury-laden. Eat as much as you want!
Another selling point is barramundi farms are eco-friendly. They are raised using sustainable aquaculture and have a smaller environmental footprint compared with other fish farms. They were crowned the 2009 “Seafood Champion” for ocean-friendly production practices.
Barramundi are definitely worth seeking out (either fresh or frozen) at Whole Foods, Costco, Legal Seafoods, and likely your local supermarket. A good catch!
(Disclosure: I have NO financial connection to the barramundi business.)
“I hate holidays like Thanksgiving … there’s so much food and all I do is eat too much,” complained one of my clients. Clearly, she was missing the point of the holiday! I encouraged her to put more focus on the PEOPLE and not the food. Yes, she would have the opportunity to enjoy a nice meal, but she could also enjoy the companionship of family and friends. By putting food on the bottom of the priority list, she might find that she could better enjoy the holiday.
If you are fretting about calories, remember that overeating on Thanksgiving is normal; it is not bad or wrong. Even “normal eaters” overeat, as do dieters and binge eaters. One extra-large meal will not ruin your life forever! And, if you pay attention to your hunger signals, you’ll discover the day after Thanksgiving you will not be very hungry; you will naturally choose to eat less (without enforcing a starvation diet).
I hope you have a nice holiday, find a few minutes to count your blessings (rather than count calories), and are able to be thankful for having a healthy body that allows you to enjoy an active lifestyle.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many "cooking challenged" athletes are trying to figure out how to make an apple pie. Here is a simple alternative—Apple Crisp! The recipe is far easier than making a pie, and just as tasty. Enjoy it!
I have a question about getting calcium from foods vs pills.
I’ve been a lacto-octo vegetarian for about 30 years and I’m a big soy milk drinker. You say calcium-fortified soy milk is a good source of calcium. I don’t see much difference between getting the calcium from the soy milk or from a pill, because the soy milk has had a calcium pill dissolved in it to make it “fortified”. What’s the difference?
There's not much of a difference in terms of calcium. But when you get the calcium via soy milk, you at least get the protein and a myriad of other good nutrients along with the calcium. If you just take the pill, you might “forget” to drink the soy milk and you'll miss out on all the good stuff it offers--including high quality protein that vegetarians might not get otherwise.
As you know, eating whole foods is always preferable to taking supplements; so many bioactive compounds are in foods that are not in pills. Supplementing a whole food can further boost the health value.
Enjoy your fortified soy milk!
For more information about calcium, protein and supplements:
Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Chapters 1. 7 and 11
“Can I really eat toast for breakfast and then have a sandwich for lunch???” my weight-conscious client asked me with fear in her eyes. “Why not?” I responded.
“Because carbs are fattening, aren’t they? … Shouldn’t I be limiting my bread intake?”
“Carbs are NOT fattening; fatty foods are fattening,” I assured her and suggested she limit fats -- butter on the toast, mayo on the sandwich. “The conversion of carb into body fat is a tough conversion,” I explained and sent her home to experiment with a higher-carb eating plan.
When she came back a week later, she reported she was really enjoying eating a sandwich instead of a salad for lunch; she felt more satisfied and her workouts were better because her muscles were better fueled. The carbs in the bread got converted into glycogen, an important source of energy for active people. Oil in salad dressing, in comparison, had been leaving her muscles unfueled.
If you are bread-phobic, think again. Experiment with swapping some protein- or fat-calories for some bread, and then observe the benefits:
-You enjoy the bread.
-Your workouts are better.
-You don’t “get fat”!
If you need help with taking the fear out of foods such as bread, bagels. and pasta, I suggest you meet with a sports dietitian (use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org). The section on weight management in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook can also be helpful.
Yes! Despite popular belief, eating a fruit- or grain-based snack, such as an energy bar, banana, handful of pretzels, or an apple, just 5 minutes before a workout can boost your energy at the end of the session. Research also suggests that eating 15 minutes before you exercise is as effective for boosting your energy as eating an hour before.
Your body can digest food while you exercise. Your muscles get to use the food to enhance your workout, as long as you are exercising at a pace that you can maintain for more than half an hour. Most athletes train at a moderate pace, hence they can benefit from a pre-exercise energy booster. If you’ll be doing a sprint workout, you might want to eat an hour or two pre-exercise, so the food has time to empty from your stomach.
Your best bet is to experiment with different pre-exercise snacks, to determine when you can eat them without causing distress, and which ones settle best and help you perform at your best.
Having a drink of water right before exercise is also a smart idea, even if you will be exercising for less than an hour. Water is also helpful during exercise. Water can turn into sweat In only 10 minutes (in trained athletes). Ingested fluid moves rapidly, so don’t hesitate to keep drinking even towards the end of your workout.
Shopping for the healthiest foods can be a frustrating experience. Because of an abundance of media’s messages about “good” and “bad” foods, you almost have to have a PhD in nutrition to know what to buy at the supermarket. Thankfully, the solution for simplifying the grocery shopping experience is just around the corner. Some stores now have a helpful food labeling system. For example:
--Hannaford grocery stores have created a Guiding Star system that ranks foods according to the nutrients we want to eat more of (such as calcium, iron, fiber) and those we should eat less of (saturated fat, trans fat, sodium). Signs in the market place indicate if a food has one, two or three stars. The fact that 77% of the foods in the store do not qualify for even one star indicates how sub-optimal our food supply is...
--About 500 grocery stores nationwide are using the NuVal food ranking system. Look for NuVal scores next to the price tags on the shelves. For example, Kellogg’s Unfrosted Mini-wheats have a NuVal score of 91; in comparison, the score for Rice Crispie Treats Cereal is 8. The system offers an independent review of the foods; it was not developed by the food industry and is not biased.
As a result of being educated by these helpful food-ranking systems, consumers are shifting their shopping patterns. According to speakers at a conference sponsored by Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy, people shopping at markets with the food ranking systems are now buying more of the best foods, and less of the rest.Once consumers start requesting more nutrient dense and locally grown foods, the grocery stores will change what they currently sell. Here’s to better health!